Background: Australia has the highest proportion of immigrants in the world (24% of the population is overseas-born, compared to 22% in New Zealand, 19% in Canada and 12% in the USA). In this context, dental students have become increasingly diverse in a milieu where patients are derived from increasingly diverse backgrounds.
Aim: The study aims to analyse the degree to which transcultural and communication skills content is currently embedded in the medical, physiotherapy and dental curricula at a major Australian university.
Materials and methods: Undergraduate dental, medical and physiotherapy curricula were compared and critically assessed. Researchers considered the amount of transcultural and communication skills content, the number of formal contact hours for each course and the number of teaching staff involved. In addition, 21 interviews were conducted with staff at the three schools, who were involved in the curriculum development process.
Results: The medical and physiotherapy curricula had an explicit focus on transcultural and communication skills as a major and continuing element, delivered by teaching staff from a wide variety of academic and professional backgrounds. In contrast, the dental course showed an under-representation of transcultural and communication skills content which was taught by a limited number of staff from the School of Dental Science.
Conclusions: In marked contrast to medical and physiotherapy curricula, transcultural and communication skills content had a low formal profile in the dental curriculum. A curriculum review process may be a positive step towards the development of a new training curriculum giving higher priority to transcultural and communication skills to support more effective workforce development.